Month: February 2012

Smoothies: for Adults or sugar overload?

I’ve long been a fan of Shawn Phillips, author of Strength for Life: The Fitness Plan for the Rest of Your Life. Over the past few years, I’ve become somewhat more than a Facebook Friend. In September of 2010 I was curled up in a ball in my bunk in the Barrels Huts at 12,000′. I drank some bad water and had severe diarrhea and cramps that almost stopped me from successfully qualifying for the Elbrus Race 2010, a mountain running race to the summit of 18,510 ft (5642 meters) Mount Elbrus, highest peak in Europe and one of the Seven Summits. Shawn called to cheer me up, and help me get my spirits back after the event doctor had pulled me from the race, severely dehydrated and at risk of HAPE.

USA Pro Cycling Challenge with Shawn Phillips
USA Pro Cycling Challenge with Shawn Phillips

Earlier today, Shawn blogged about The Fruit-Smoothie and Other Health Food Myths [note, this article is no longer posted] and I have to say I totally agree with the concept here and was inspired to write this post.

Time is a major issue for most people on the way up in life—it drives us to make decisions we’d otherwise do differently. Heck, fast-food didn’t become a $200 billion annual business because it’s so delicious and energizing! — Shawn Phillips

Seems like a few years ago, the whole green smoothie thing has taken hold of America, and people bragged to me about how I was eating like them, since I did green smoothies too. I looked at their recipes, with like a pound of fruit, and all the fructose that goes with it. Trust me, a pound of fruit does not a “spinach smoothie” make.


I realize there are sane, reasonable alternatives that probably don’t taste as much like a sugar-bomb, like this one:

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 cup fresh pineapple (about 125 grams)
2 tablespoons granola (preferably homemade)
1 small or 1/2 large carrot, peeled and sliced or diced (about 50 grams)
2 ice cubes (optional)
Carrot sticks or curls for garnish
· Nutritional information per serving: 207 calories; 4 grams fat; 0 grams saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 2 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 43 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams dietary fiber; 37 milligrams sodium; 4 grams protein — Smoothies for Grownups – The New York Times

Seems fairly benign, right? But look, 43 gm of sugar? That’s a tad under 11 teaspoons. Four grams of protein? One egg white. So yeah, have an egg white and eleven teaspoons of sugar and tell me how freaking awesomely healthy you’re eating. And that’s just for a homemade smoothie intentionally created to be lower sugar – for adults as it claims. But many people buy their smoothies premade from a bar. Most of these are poured out of a carton, even the “whole foods” ones.

Smoothies are also very high in sugar content. An original size Banana Berry smoothie from Jamba Juice contains 82 grams of sugar. That’s more than double your recommended 40 grams of sugar a day. — Get your food facts straight – Binghamton University student paper

Shake Ingredients
Breakfast Shake Ingredients

There is a big difference in the recipe of my shake – no fruit sugar:

1-1/2 scoops Vanilla BSN Syntha-6 Protein Powder
1 scoop Amazing Grass Energy Green Superfood Lemon Lime
5 gm creatine
5 gm BCAA
5 gm l-glutamine
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Mix in a blender with 2 cups water

300 calories, 7 gm fat, 17 gm carbs, 35 gm protein. Compared to that above Grownup Smoothie – roughly 1/3 the carbs, 10x the protein, and 2x the fat.
(for my evening shake, or when I’m in a higher-calorie phase of training I substitute FullStrength for the Syntha-6)

This is actually a much more balanced nutritional profile than the example “grownup” smoothie, especially for someone who actually works out, and really, someone who does a non-workout workout and drinks that grownup smoothie and can’t make progress needs to make some serious changes …

Update: 3 March 2014 – from “The 100 Calorie Diet Plan” [CLICK HERE]

I need to step aside here and answer a common question. I get it a lot. “What about smoothies?” No. Just no. Let’s take the example of the woman with a daily need of 1400 calories, or 14 food portions in a day. Let’s assume it’s a pack of yogurt, some raspberries, some strawberries, some graham crackers, some cherries, some celery, some avocado… you’re getting this point, right? Yes, toss all that in the blender, and after a minute of watching the cool swirling mass through the clear container, you have a 1400 calorie “smoothie”. Chug that. Remember, in 24 hours you can have another one. I’m basically against the smoothie concept for that very reason.

Right now (Feb 2012) I’m experimenting with Intermittent Fasting, based on a recent workshop I did with Chad Waterbury, and the above shake recipe is generally my only meal immediately after my morning training session until after my afternoon session (depending on if I also do a noon training). (update: I’ve evolved back a bit into having a couple of these shakes as my daytime meals, and then eating more regularly in the evening, more like the original Warrior Diet methodology)


I don’t mean to sound rude, or demeaning, by any means, that’s not my intent. But I thought that a few of my followers would be interested in analyzing their own lives, their own diets, their own rationalizations, and see if there are gaps, or holes, or missing pieces to the puzzle. If they’re buying commercial or fast food smoothies, or if they’re putting in a pound of high-fructose fruit to mask the taste of their healthy spinach, if they’re adding sugar to make it swallowable. What is the answer for you, as an individual, and if you’re at a healthy weight, healthy body composition, healthy level of fitness, and you’re happy with that, then no changes are needed, right?

Basement Training Room Updated

Finished the floor for my basement training room. This is the room where my weight equipment gets used. I bought a few boxes of the plastic garage flooring at Costco (they have it every summer) and staggered the black and white tiles in a checkerboard pattern. It’s pretty fast and simple to do. I had to cut the tiles around the edges on two walls. The space I left is for the framing for insulated walls with electric outlets – that should be later in the year, maybe summer.

I started at the most difficult place – an “L” and worked my way outward to the right and back (facing the L) then the left and front. I had just the right gap to the right and back, but to the front and right I had to cut tiles. To the front it was just the little extended locking teeth that had to come off, but to the left I had to split the tiles almost in half (5-3/4″ of 12″ tiles). I used a small crosscut saw for cutting after marking a line with pencil, and I used a 2 lb rubber mallet to knock the tiles in place.

[picasa gallery]

I took a few pictures of how I arranged the equipment for the best most efficient use based on a few years of experience with it. I’ll put up more pics and maybe some vid as I go along. I’m working on a companion volume to my ebook Planning Your Home Cardio Theater, sadly, no longer available for Amazon Kindle.

Remember, the single most important success factor in my transformation has been training at home. It could work for you.

Spike and Run My Hoka One One Mafate WP

Spiking the Mafate WP

So I decided to spike my Hoka One One Mafate WP. First of all I posted on their Facebook wall, asking if it would be okay, since I have no clue what the internal structure is, and I didn’t want to run into any air pockets. They replied quickly and said it would be fine. I went to a few stores trying to find #6 x 3/8 hex head sheet metal screws. Finally at the Ace Hardware in Silverthorne, CO, I found a box and got it. I charged up my drill and went to work. First you clean and mark the sole. You want to put in about 8 total screws, maybe more, balanced around the ball of the foot, and some on the heel and outside heel area. I marked mine on the larger lugs, though I don’t know if it matters too much.


I used a 1/16″ drill bit chucked way in, so that only about 1/2″ was sticking out, and drilled on the marks. Then I switched to a 3/8″ hex bit and sunk the screws until they felt tight. I set the drill clutch to #3, but it never clicked, so I don’t know if it would just keep stripping out the hole if you kept going – be careful.

Running Below Freezing pt 2

Today (blogging time) I had a chance to test them on a road I usually run a bit in the winter, so I could get a feel for them. Keystone Gulch Road connects a side road from Mountain House Base to North Peak and Outback Base at Keystone Resort. Snowmobiles, logging trucks, snowcats use the road regularly for work and rescue, and a variety of runners, snowshoers, pole hikers, and skiers use the road for training. The surface varies from gravel/snow/slush mixed, to hard ice, chopped ice, and soft and firm packed snow.

running along the keystone gulch road, overhead view
Running below freezing along a snowy road

Accuweather said it was 20 with a windchill of 10, and I figured I was pretty warm last time at 10, so I put on some Pearl Izumi windblocker tights, an Under Armour coldgear zip t-neck and boxer briefs, a Mountain Hardwear Superpower Hoodie, A TNF running beanie (discontinued model), and my First Ascent windpro gloves. On my feet I had the usual Injinji liners, and Smartwool PHD compression kneesocks. I decided to forego my TNF Better Than Naked wind jacket.

I put the shoes on at the door, so I wouldn’t scratch my floors, and then went out and did a warmup walk while waiting for the Garmin 305 to get a satellite lock. The sound of clicking on the pavement was a bit odd (even over my Kittie playlist), and I purposefully walked on some slicker ice sections to test it out, and had really good connection to it. Felt stable. I started the Garmin at the mouth of Keystone Gulch Road, and ran uphill for 3.04 miles to the base of North Peak area at Keystone.

looking down at feet in hoka one one mafate wp spiked running shoes
Hoka One One Mafate WP - spiked for winter traction

It was dang cold. I never really got warm. I kept the Superpower hood on almost the entire run. I was a bit slower than previously, but that might be because of my testing the modified Warrior Diet, or the altitude (9600′) getting me a bit more this trip, a bad night sleep – who knows? As far as dress goes, I did not get at all sweaty except for a few spots on my beanie, but then again, I did not ever feel warm. I think a windshell would be an absolute necessity this cold. The gloves were too cold, the Windpro was letting enough air in to keep me chilled. Perhaps something like Gore Windblocker would be better. I’ll dig around in my gloves to see what I have for next time.

looking up Santiago Express - Keystone Resort
North Peak Base - Santiago Express lift - Keystone Resort

Except for the deep looser snow (I did roll my ankle once – something people who fear Hoka shoes mention on the net a lot), the shoes ran quite well. I was pretty happy with them. I think I might add a couple screws to the midfoot area, since the Mafate seems to have a bit of rocker there. If you like the Hoka, and like to run in the winter, and might encounter firm snow or ice, I highly recommend you consider this relatively cheap and quick solution.


Video above is primarily to demonstrate the “clicking sound” on ice. 10:00 pace on very slippery hard packed snow.

Big Fat Mountain – Kilimanjaro and Obesity

I ran into a listing on Kickstarter (a startup funding pool website) for Big Fat Mountain – a documentary by Kara Richardson Whitely about her journey past obesity by taking up hiking and eventually climbing Kilimanjaro (one of the Seven Summits Quest). I’ve done Kili, and it was a long hike, and I think it’s an awesome goal for someone trying to regain their youthful health and fitness.

She also wrote a book about her ongoing transformation – Fat Woman on the Mountain: How I Lost Half of Myself and Found Happiness

I haven’t read it yet, but think I’ll add it to my queue. This sounds like it could be a really cool story about how mountaineering and the Seven Summits Quest could be the best motivation some people need to truly transform not only their bodies, but their minds, hearts, and spirits.

Too Scary for the Beginners

Attitude can be a really big deal when you’re trying to make changes and set goals. Sometimes it’s one of the only things you can actually change in your world.

You cannot tailor make the situations in life, but you can tailor make the attitudes to fit those situations — Zig Ziglar

You can approach life with a positive or negative outlook. A lot of people who are just beginning their road to better health and fitness have become burdened down by the negatives in their lives. Negative emotions, self-image, job, housing, health. Sometimes you can fix these things, sometimes not, but the one thing you can always fix is how you see these things and oftentimes how you react.

Fat Pants fit January 2010
Fat Pants - 20 lb ago I had a muffin-top in these

When a person first begins, they start like a baby learning to walk. You have to do all the steps in the right order or it generally won’t have the best of results (in spite of the few oddball exceptions). Roll over, sit, scoot, pull, crawl, hobble, walk, run. Just like that. Most parents intuitively know this, and don’t go yelling “NO! Stay Down Where It’s Safe!”. Unfortunately, most outsiders aren’t all that supportive and utter blatantly negative statements.

Don’t run, it’s bad for you.
Here, eat, you look tired.
Why are you exercising all the time?
One won’t hurt you.
Take a few days off – you earned it.

Sometimes though, even very strong fit trained people will say something inadvertently negative, with far-reaching impact, and it never once occurs to us. How about a discussion like this:

Trainer: You should eat more cruciferous vegetables, which have many cancer fighting properties as well.
Client: Like what do you mean?
Trainer: Things like kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts..
Buff Friend>: Oooooh yucko! Brussels sprouts taste like nasty dishwater!
Client: Oh, never mind then.

For one thing, that’s only an opinion, probably based on a childhood experience. Many kids don’t like the stronger taste of cruciferous vegetables, but grow to like them as they age and their tastes mature. You have no idea what someone else will like or dislike. Also, the relative taste of the food in question has no bearing on the fact that you should eat more of it 😉

Perhaps now this client will quit the whole program, assuming it will demand that they force down detestable food that no normal person could. This is a wild example only of how a brief negative utterance could seriously impact the future of someone who really did want to make a change.

When you’re a beginner, you’re more sensitive to the world around you, the world you’re afraid you’re leaving behind, the world you’re still tied to in so many ways. You’re afraid of the future, and what it means, and you’ll jump at any excuse to bail on your “goal”. Look at all the New Year Resolutions falling by the wayside – gym attendance peaks in January and is back to normal by March.

I like the approach of Shawn Phillips in his excellent book Strength for Life: The Fitness Plan for the Rest of Your Life wherein he lays out one possible approach to the fitness journey for a total beginner.

When an activity ceases to be something you do and becomes a way of life, you begin to experience the pinnacle of freedom: Mastery … Your body is strong and vital not because you train; rather, you train to celebrate your strength and vitality. Training is a natural movement for you.

I made the commitment some time ago to be less negative, to attempt not inadvertently halting a person’s progress – whenever I could. It has changed the way I Facebook, Tweet and blog. I avoid sensitive topics when possible, to avoid being responsible for someone quitting over something that has nothing to do with their training.

Help me be positive, and help your brothers and sisters be positive, and commit to be positive yourself. Enjoy the ride to mastery and give a hand when you can. Thanks

Very Berry Protein Yogurt

This is a total treat, right up there with ice cream, but way better for you.

In a bowl stir together:
1 cup fat-free plain yogurt
1 scoop strawberry protein powder

gently stir in:
1/2 cup mixed frozen berries

It’s great to start eating right away, as the berries seem to thaw as you stir and eat, leaving some ice crystals for chewy surprise texture.